1958 Auckland pedestrians begin ‘Barnes Dance’
Auckland became the first city in New Zealand to introduce the ‘Barnes Dance’ street-crossing system, which stopped all traffic and allowed pedestrians to cross intersections in every direction at the same time.
The system was first used in North American cities in the 1940s and is named after an American traffic engineer, Henry A. Barnes. Barnes did not claim to have invented the system but was a strong advocate of it, having observed the difficulties his daughter faced crossing the road to get to school. As traffic commissioner in Denver, Baltimore, and New York, Barnes promoted the concept for the entire CBD of these cities. Despite many dire predictions, local newspapers were soon admitting that the concept worked well. The name came into being when an American reporter wrote that ‘Barnes has made the people so happy they’re dancing in the streets’.
In Auckland the Barnes Dance became a feature of pedestrian traffic in Queen Street. Other New Zealand cities soon followed Auckland’s lead and introduced the system. In recent years the growth in the number of vehicles on our city streets has seen the Barnes Dance come under attack, as traffic engineers have placed more emphasis on the flow of cars than that of pedestrians.